Every Monday we will tell you what you need to know heading into a new week of NBA action.
1. The Heat Check: Pelicans, Grizzlies, NYC & Joel Embiid
Pelicans flying high
We begin with the team riding the longest active win streak in the league: The New Orleans Pelicans, who have won seven in a row and sit atop the Western Conference entering Week 9.
The Pelicans are coming off an overtime win against Phoenix on Sunday — their second win over the Suns in three days — behind a combined 64 points from Zion Williamson (35) and CJ McCollum (29). Williamson is averaging 30 points on 67% shooting, along with nine rebounds and more than five assists per game during the streak. Over these seven games, Zion is a plus-124 in 254 minutes on court.
New Orleans did have the benefit of playing six of the seven games during the streak at home as they are now 12-3 at Smoothie King Center. However, now it’s time to see if they can maintain this win streak on the road as this week begins with a two-game set in Utah (Tuesday and Thursday) before another round against the Suns in Phoenix, marking their third meeting in a nine-day span.
Grizzlies keeping pace
The Pelicans hold just a one-game lead in the West as the Memphis Grizzlies will not let them pull away. The Grizzlies enter Week 9 on a five-game win streak and have won seven of their last eight games to hold the No. 2 spot in the conference.
Ja Morant has led the way for Memphis, averaging 25.5 points, nine assists and eight rebounds while appearing in four of the five games during the streak. In addition to Morant, the Grizzlies are also getting 19 ppg from Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. during this run.
Four of Memphis’ five games in this streak have come at home, where the Grizzlies are 11-2 on the season. They begin the week by finishing a five-game homestand with games against Atlanta (Monday, 8 p.m. ET, NBA TV) and Milwaukee (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, NBA TV) before closing out the week in OKC to begin a four-game road trip.
New York state of hoops
With Sunday’s win against Sacramento, the New York Knicks (14-13) hold the longest active win streak in the East with four straight wins and begin Week 9 in eighth place in the conference. Julius Randle is averaging 28 ppg and 10 rpg during the streak, while RJ Barrett is adding 20.8 ppg.
The Knicks did lose Jalen Brunson to a sprained ankle during the fourth quarter of the win over the Kings. New York has two days off before they face the Bulls in a two-game set in Chicago on Wednesday and Friday as they look to keep their streak alive.
Not to be outdone, the Brooklyn Nets (16-12) enter Week 9 having won three straight and seven of their last eight games, helping them climb to fourth place in the East.
Kevin Durant has been nearly unstoppable during this stretch. Appearing in seven of Brooklyn’s last eight games, Durant is averaging 32.3 ppg on 63% shooting from the field, 38% from 3-point range and 95% from the free throw line, while adding over six rebounds and five assists a night. Kyrie Irving has added 26-5-5 a game during this run.
Durant enters Week 9 needing 60 points to pass John Havlicek for 17th place and 62 points to pass Paul Pierce for 16th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. If he hits his 30.0 ppg average this week, he would pass Havlicek against the Raptors on Friday and pass Pierce Sunday against the Pistons. Tim Duncan appears safe in 15th place this week as he holds a 120-point lead over KD and the Nets only have three games this week.
Embiid: The 50-point man
Joel Embiid became the first player with multiple games of 50 or more points this season as he dropped 53 in a win over Charlotte on Sunday to go with his 59-point gem from last month against Utah. If Embiid can post another 50-piece, he’d be the 21st player with at least three 50+ point games in a single season.
50+ Point Games, 2022-23 Season
- Joel Embiid (Dec. 11 vs. Charlotte): 53 PTS, 20-32 FG, 2-3 3P, 11-11 FT, 12 REB, 3 AST
- Anthony Davis (Dec. 4 at Washington): 55 PTS, 22-30 FG, 2-3 3P, 9-9 FT, 17 REB, 3 BLK
- Devin Booker (Nov. 30 vs. Chicago): 51 PTS, 20-25 FG, 6-7 3P, 5-6 FT, 6 AST, 4 REB
- Stephen Curry (Nov. 16 at Phoenix): 50 PTS, 17-28 FG, 7-11 3P. 9-9 FT, 9 REB, 6 AST
- Joel Embiid (Nov. 13 vs. Utah): 59 PTS, 19-28 FG, 1-5 3P, 20-24 FT, 11 REB, 8 AST, 7 BLK
- Darius Garland (Nov. 13 vs. MIN): 51 PTS, 16-31 FG, 10-15 3P, 9-13 FT, 6 AST, 2 REB, 2 STL
Embiid has also scored at least 35 points in four consecutive games, a run of scoring excellence that has occurred 139 times in NBA history – including one such streak from Embiid last season.
If Embiid is able to hit 35 points or more when the Sixers host the Kings on Tuesday, it would be only the 70th such streak in league history, and Embiid would be just the seventh active player with such a streak, joining teammate James Harden (three times), LeBron James (twice), DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Paul George and Nikola Jokic.
2. NBA returns to Mexico City
After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA resumed it’s Global Games initiative this season in an effort to continue to grow the game around the world.
The preseason saw a pair of games between the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards in Japan, and a pair of games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks in Abu Dhabi.
On Saturday, the NBA will return to Mexico City for the first time since 2019 as the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat will meet at Mexico City Arena for the league’s 31st game in Mexico overall — more than any country outside the U.S. and Canada.
OFFICIAL: We’re hosting four special out-of-market home games this season in honor of our #Spurs50 anniversary celebration!
📍 Mexico City (Arena CDMX) – Dec. 17
📍 Alamodome – Jan. 13
📍 Austin (Moody Center) – April 6 & 8
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 17, 2022
The NBA Mexico City Game 2022 will air live in Mexico on ESPN, TUDN and NBA League Pass, the league’s premium live game subscription service. The game will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories around the world on television, digital media and social media. In the United States, the game can be seen on NBA TV with tip off set for 5 p.m. ET.
This game will mark the seventh time that the Spurs have played a game in Mexico, dating back to October 1994 with a pair of preseason games at the Palacio de los Deportes. San Antonio’s most recent game in Mexico was a 121-119 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns during the NBA Mexico City Games 2019. Saturday’s game will be the second game in Mexico for the Heat, who defeated the Brooklyn Nets 101-89 during the NBA Mexico City Games 2017.
3. Will we start to see some deals?
The trade deadline may still be two months away — Thursday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. ET — but the chatter about player movement will get a boost on Thursday, Dec. 15 when 74 players that signed with their current teams as free agents this offseason become eligible to be traded.
Teams have had training camp, the preseason and the first eight weeks of the regular season to evaluate the moves they made during the offseason and decide if those players are the right fit, or if further moves need to be made to improve the roster.
See below for the full list of 74 players that will become trade-eligible this Thursday, Dec. 15. Players noted with an asterisk (*) have the option to veto a trade due to their Bird rights.
|Kessler Edwards *||Brooklyn|
|Derrick Jones Jr. *||Chicago|
|Theo Pinson *||Dallas|
|Marvin Bagley III||Detroit|
|Rodney McGruder *||Detroit|
|Donte DiVincenzo||Golden State|
|JaMychal Green||Golden State|
|John Wall||LA Clippers|
|Troy Brown||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Thomas Bryant||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Damian Jones||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Juan Toscano-Anderson||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Lonnie Walker||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Udonis Haslem *||Miami|
|Jevon Carter *||Milwaukee|
|Serge Ibaka *||Milwaukee|
|Wesley Matthews *||Milwaukee|
|Jalen Brunson||New York|
|Isaiah Hartenstein||New York|
|Jericho Sims||New York|
|Mike Muscala *||Oklahoma City|
|James Harden *||Philadelphia|
|Bismack Biyombo *||Phoenix|
|Drew Eubanks *||Portland|
|Gary Payton II||Portland|
|Gorgui Dieng||San Antonio|
|Justin Champagnie *||Toronto|
|Otto Porter Jr.||Toronto|
4. National TV Spotlight: Five games to watch
In addition to the NBA Mexico Game 2022 on NBA TV this Saturday, here are five more marquee matchups to watch this week. (Note: All times Eastern.)
Golden State took out the top team in the East at home on Saturday when they defeated Boston in a Finals rematch. Can the Warriors follow up that win over the Celtics with a win over the second-ranked Bucks in the first of a six-game East coast swing over the next nine days?
The Celtics and Lakers give us a preview at next month’s NBA Rivals Week as the longtime adversaries meet for the first time this season. This is the final game of a six-game road trip for the Celtics and comes on the second night of a back-to-back as Boston faces the Clippers on Monday night.
Thursday: Milwaukee at Memphis (8 ET, NBA TV)
The Bucks and Grizzlies enter Week 9 as the second-place teams in their respective conferences. Memphis enters the week riding a five-game win streak and, if the Grizzlies can beat Atlanta on Monday at home, they would be seeking their seventh straight win when the Bucks visit the Hawks on Thursday.
It’s a matchup of two of the premier big men in the game: Los Angeles’ Anthony Davis and Denver’s Nikola Jokic. This is the third meeting of the season for the Lakers and Nuggets, and if the first two games are any indication, expect big performances from Davis and Jokic. On Oct, 26, Jokic finished one assist shy of a triple-double (31 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, four steals) in Denver’s 110-99 win. On Oct. 30, Davis posted 23 points and 15 boards to help the Lakers secure their first win of the season.
Saturday: New Orleans at Phoenix (9 ET, NBA TV)
This will be the third game in just nine days between the Pelicans and Suns and if this game matches the intensity of the two games we just saw over the weekend, then prepare to be entertained. New Orleans won both contests behind a pair of 35-point efforts from Zion Williamson as the Pelicans pushed their win streak to seven in a row.
5. League Pass Games to Watch
Kevin Durant — who grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland just outside of Washington, DC — returns to the DMV on Monday as the Nets take on the Wizards. Durant had 28 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds as Brooklyn trounced Washington in their first meeting of the season. Overall, Durant is 7-7 in games played at Washington and has averaged 26.1 points (29.3 ppg if you remove the Warriors-Wizards game from 2017 when Durant left after just 93 seconds with a knee injury).
Can Embiid keep his 35+ point streak alive when the Kings come to Philly on Tuesday? Will De’Aaron Fox return to the lineup for the Kings, who missed his presence in Sunday’s loss to the Knicks? Fox has missed the past two games with right foot soreness; the Kings were able to rally past Cleveland with a 19-0 run to close the game, but struggled against New York without their leading scorer.
Wednesday: Cleveland at Dallas (9 ET, NBA League Pass)
It’s the league’s leading scorer (Luka Doncic at 32.9 ppg) going up against the league’s top defense (Cleveland with a defensive rating of 106.7). This game may also produce a Doncic vs. Donovan Mitchell duel, if Mitchell is able to return from leg soreness that has kept him out the past two games.
This is a matchup of two of the league’s most dynamic young guards in OKC’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Memphis’ Ja Morant. Both players enter Week 9 ranked in the top 10 in scoring: Gilgeous-Alexander is third (30.8 ppg) and Morant is ninth (27.7 ppg). No players drive to the basket more than Gilgeous-Alexander (24.6 drives per game) and Morant (22.0), and no guards score more points in the paint than Gilgeous-Alexander (14.9 ppg, 4th overall) and Morant (14.5 ppg, 7th overall).